The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump will soon move to its next phase.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced in a letter Monday that work had begun on a report summarizing the inquiry’s findings so far — a report that, he said, would be “transmitted to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess.”
It is the Judiciary Committee under Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), then, that will review Schiff’s findings and decide whether to draw up articles of impeachment against the president. If they do so, and vote to approve them, impeachment would be brought before the full House of Representatives. That’s expected to happen before the end of this year.
Schiff said in his letter that he was “open to the possibility that further evidence will come to light,” either through documents or new witnesses. But he said, basically, that they’d found enough already.
“The evidence of wrongdoing and misconduct by the President that we have gathered to date is clear and hardly in dispute,” he wrote. “President Trump conditioned official acts — a White House meeting desperately desired by the new Ukrainian president and critical US military assistance — on Ukraine announcing sham, politically-motivated investigations that would help President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.”
Schiff continued: “What is left to us now is to decide whether this behavior is compatible with the office of the Presidency, and whether the Constitutional process of impeachment is warranted.”
But have Democrats actually found enough?
By any measure, the impeachment inquiry — announced just two months ago — has been remarkably successful at shaking loose a great deal of information about the Ukraine scandal. Seventeen current or former administration officials were deposed as witnesses behind closed doors, and 12 of them testified publicly over the past two weeks.
Yet there are still many gaps in the factual record, and questions that haven’t been answered. In particular, only one person in regular contact with Trump on the topic of Ukraine — Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland — agreed to testify, and even then he claimed not to be able to recall much of what they discussed.
Many, like my colleague Matt Yglesias, for example, have recently argued that Democrats need to make a more aggressive push to hear testimony from top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton — because these were people who were in direct contact with President Trump about Ukraine.
But so far, Democrats have shown little interest in this. They have expressed a desire to proceed with impeachment swiftly, rather than wait for lengthy court battles that could force these top officials to testify.
Their decision to do so, even though hardly any Republicans have shown support for the impeachment inquiry, is essentially an admission that they will not actually manage to remove Trump from office — and that they doubt any newly unearthed facts would change that outcome.
At least 20 Republican senators would have to join the 47 Democrats in the upper chamber to remove Trump from office. And that turn of events that seems vanishingly unlikely, given Trump’s continued strong support in the GOP and among the party’s voters.
In rushing toward a quick vote, then, Democrats seem to be bracing for an inevitable defeat: admitting that Trump may well be impeached, but that he’ll remain president anyway.